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God's Word, not belief

Posted by Pastor Christopher Hull on with 2 Comments

One of the best little ways to read Luther everyday is by reading his Table Talk, volume 54 in Luther's Works. This book is a collection of Luther's sayings around the table that other men recorded. They are short little paragraphs and are very beneficial to anyone who wants to know a little more about Luther's theology and his personality.

One writing that is very helpful No. 184 concerning the controversy about Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper. Luther says, "Bucer argues that the ungodly do not receive the body of Christ in the sacrament because they do not believe. Then one should be permitted to argue that because the ungodly do not believe the Ten Commandments, therefore the commandments do not exist, or because the ungodly do not believe in laws, therefore, laws do not exist" (Luther's Works 54.25). Martin Bucer was a theologian from Strassburg and was known as a mediating theologian, like a middle of the road kind of theologian. He was not as intense as Luther was and would attempt to make peace, even at the cost of true doctrine. We can see in BUcer's theology of the sacrament that he has been influenced, or weighed down, by enthusiastic theologians that would say faith in the sacrament makes it the sacrament, rather than the Word of Jesus.

Luther always struggled with those who would define the sacraments by anything else besides the Word of God. Rome used reason, as did some of the reformed, while other's would use emotion and personal faith to define the sacraments. However, Luther says in the small Catechism that the Lord's Supper is the true Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus the Christ, under the bread and the wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink. Luther then goes on to quote the Words of Institution from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1st Corinthians as that Word of God that defines the sacrament of the altar. For Luther, it is the Word of Jesus that declares the bread and the wine to be the Body and Blood of Jesus, not our faith. Faith receives the Body and Blood for our forgiveness, whereas unbelief easts and drinks to our judgment. Faith does not make the sacrament, but rather Jesus' Word makes the sacrament what it is and defines it's benefits. Faith does not make the sacrament, or define what it does, but rather faith receives what Jesus says.

This doctrine of the sacraments is also comforting in our baptismal life, in that our faith does not define who we are, but rather receives who Christ declares us to be. Faith is not a good work in and of itself, but rather receives the good work of Jesus the Christ, our crucified and risen savior. Faith does not define, but receives. May this knowledge comfort you in your despair so that you may know that Jesus declares you righteous, forgives you all your sin, and sanctifies you unto life everlasting, and He will continue to grant you faith that receives this Word and promise.

Peace be with y'all. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam drowned anew so that you hear only the voice of your Savior Jesus who declares you righteous forever, Amen.


Jesus' Sheepdog,


Pastor Hull


Tags: bucer, faith, luther, sacraments, ten commandments, word


Lori Lewis March 31, 2017 8:47am

Pastor - since it is the Word that causes bread and wine to become Body and Blood, and it is not dependent on belief, then what is the reason for NOT taking communion at a church that is not in alter fellowship with the LCMS if that church states the words of institution prior to communion? Is it because of the confession of agreement with the teaching of the church that goes along with participation in communion? That is, if we reason that the bread and wine is the Body and Blood at a Baptist church just as much as it is at a LC-MS church, then is the reason we do not take communion with our Baptist friends because to do so would be an outward sign of agreement with their Baptist tenants?

Anonymous April 21, 2017 4:04pm

Lori, I just saw this. Yes, not communing at a church is mainly because we do not confess the same confession of Holy Scripture and the Gospel. To commune at a church is both an individual act, but also a communal one in which we join together in corporate confession. If we do not confess the same thing, then we must stop and come to concord first and then join in table fellowship.